- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

PORT LIONS, Alaska (AP) - Port Lions celebrated 50 years this weekend, the final celebration in a string during the past year, remembering its history since the village moved from its original Afognak location.

“We’re trying to make everything focused on people learning about and celebrating and remembering the history of Port Lions,” said Dorinda Kewan, a member of the organizing committee, a few days before the event.

City of Port Lions clerk Katie Adkins said this celebration is in December because that’s when the men of the village brought their wives and families to move into the new homes, although she was not sure of the exact date.

“Some of the people on the (event organizing) committee actually moved from Afognak to Port Lions, and, I’m told, very early in December, the first residents made the move from Afognak to Port Lions,” Kewan said.

At the time, the homes were basically shells without flooring, painted walls or window dressing. They celebrated the holidays as best they could and then put down floors, while boats continued to move furniture and other belongings from Afognak, Kewan said.

“But early in December is when the first families made that initial move,” Kewan said.

Port Lions has held celebrations earlier this year, including one on the Fourth of July with a picture display from throughout the town’s history, in addition to the parade, picnic and other holiday festivities and a social on March 27, 50 years to the day after the earthquake.

The City of Port Lions, Native Village of Port Lions, Afognak Native Corp. and Native Village of Afognak, along with the Port Lions School, sponsored the final event with a potluck meal, historical display, band and dance performances.

Dancers by the Sea, the Port Lions Alutiiq dance group, performed an original song and dance about the move from Afognak to Port Lions.

During dinner, the microphone was open for people to share memories of the 1964 earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the move and the move itself.

Peggy Nelson recalled looking forward to the move because she was scared after the earthquake.

“It was a scary time back then,” Nelson said. “We didn’t know what we were going to do because what do you do when the earth is shaking and the ground is sinking and the trees are moving back and forth and you’re stepping over waves in the ground?”

Port Lions was originally founded in 1964 by people who moved from the village of Afognak, on the southern tip of Afognak Island, after it was destroyed.

The tsunami following the 1964 earthquake wiped out Afognak, destroying about 70 percent of the buildings, including homes and the community hall, according to “9.2, Kodiak and the World’s Second-Largest Earthquake,” a book by the Daily Mirror and the Baranov Museum.

Bridges were also destroyed and the store had been pushed inland. Afognak itself was 5.5 feet lower than it had been the day before the earthquake due to the action and movement of tectonic plates.

At high tide, one of the main roads was covered in water, wells were contaminated by seawater, and areas filled with water by the waves did not drain.

While the residents originally wanted to rebuild in place, they ultimately decided to rebuild elsewhere, choosing Settler Cove in Kizhuyak Bay.

“I had mixed emotions about leaving our beautiful house over there that we built and lived in for five years before the tidal wave,” Nelson said.

The Lions International chose to help rebuild the village, and Port Lions was named after the service organization.

Construction started in May, according to “9.2,” and the former Afognak residents moved in that winter.

“We survived all that, and I’m so thankful for Port Lions and every one of you here,” Nelson said. “I love Port Lions.”

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Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, https://www.kodiakdailymirror.com

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